Music for Film and Television

You already had some experience with various horror films in the early 90s, but as far as I know nothing with one of the producers of THE PROPHECY. So how did you get involved with this production and at what stage of production was that?

Actually I had prior experience with Joel Soisson and Mike Leahy, the Producers of THE PROPHECY. One was a film called AMERICAN YAKUZA with Viggo Mortensen and the other was a film called BLUE TIGER with Virginia Madsen and Harry Dean Stanton. Neither one of those films were horror films but THE PROPHECY sounded like it would be a fun project to work on. When the producers told me they were doing THE PROPHECY I was very intrigued. I heard that Greg Widen was writing and directing and Greg was famous for writing BACKDRAFT and HIGHLANDER, both films that I was a big fan of. I ended up having a couple of meetings with Joel, Mike, and Greg about scoring the film. The meetings went very well and I decided to write a demo “suite” based on our discussions. I had not seen any footage of the film yet but had some ideas I wanted to run by them. I remember playing the demo for them and they liked it. It wasn’t long after that I was brought on board. Interestingly none of what I wrote for the demo ended up in the film however as after I watched the film I knew it needed its own unique approach.

Do you like to work from concept / script or do you prefer spotting sessions with a more or less finished film? How did the musical finding for THE PROPHECY take place?

I very much prefer to work on a film after having seen it even if it is a rough stage. Writing from a script I can get preconceived ideas and then upon seeing the film and how different it feels in pace, lighting, acting, etc. I tend to discard any material that I write based on a script. Like an audience I like to react to the film and usually those initial reactions is what guides me for the score. It’s a gut reaction and I try to not overthink it. That initial viewing of the film is so important to me in understanding what will work best.

How was the collaboration with feature film director debutant Gregory Widen?

It went really well. The thing about Greg was he was open to hearing most anything. He truly gave me creative freedom and I loved that. He also had some very good ideas in spotting the film. He did have some specific notes about certain cues, which really helped guide me as there could have been several different ways we could have scored those scenes, but he knew what he wanted. I came to understand his view of the film and I think we were both on the same wavelength. There wasn’t many revisions of cues. Again, it came down to Greg trusting me and letting me work and, of course, that is when you do your best work. It was a very positive collaboration and I was able to write quickly with confidence.

The film deals with issues of Christian faith and indigenous spirituality. Did that influence the score or what primarily drove you?

In general it influenced me greatly as I wanted a constant “spiritual” sound to the score. I felt that was important to the overall atmosphere of the film, to have that pervasive tone, especially since the main character Thomas Dagget was constantly struggling with his faith. The indigenous music was, again, coming from a place of “spirituality” and that also influenced my musical choices.

Was there a particular challenge with this specific score?

There were two rather daunting challenges for the score. One was I had in my mind that I wanted to do this mainly “choral” score with lots of atmosphere but certainly not “scary” music. I had not done anything quite like that before but I thought it was the right direction so I had to challenge myself to deliver this rather unique approach to the music.

Also, the other challenge was when I was sent the film to begin scoring I was told of the deadline and it was extremely tight. Originally it was 18 days. That was quite frightening. Since I had to record some singers there was a lot on my plate and to try to do it well in less than three weeks. I delivered the approved score on time but then found out soon after there would be reshoots, a new opening, and a revised ending. That gave me extra time to go back and make any tweaks that would improve the score and also score the new areas. It was an intensive time for me as I was truly immersed in the musical sound world of the score. Again, Greg was very encouraging on what I was doing and he also had great ideas on areas of the newer version of the film that really helped me produce the music quickly without sacrificing any artistic integrity. It was a very smooth collaboration between Greg, Joel, and Mike and myself that allowed the scoring process to be so efficient and I really do have to thank them for that.

Dimension famously sat on the film for a long time. Shot in 1993, it wasn't released until 1995. Did you have to change things on the score as part of reshoots and editing changes?

I was brought in after all the shooting and editing for the most part. The film was pretty much all there except for the minor reshoots and re-edits. There wasn’t a lot of changes or re-scoring of the music but what I did have to do is minor changes to timings to have the music fit properly. It really wasn’t a big deal as those kinds of things happen all the time. Again, for me, I was so immersed in working on the score that any change that happened was easily solved as I was so familiar with the music I was writing that the changes or additions came quickly.

THE PROPHECY title theme is, if I may say so, downright iconic. Unfortunately, these days, it's mostly all about sound carpets. How do you look back on that score today?

Thank you Dominik. I wasn’t aware the theme was iconic but good to hear. Ha! Looking back and comparing to how scores are presented today I would say I do miss “thematic” scoring. Scoring trends these days are more about pacing, texture, interesting sounds, and rhythm with little attention to themes. I do hear themes creeping back into scores just a bit but I also think writing melodies is still considered old-fashioned. It’s a different way of scoring these days but you have to adapt to the current needs and wants. Music for films is always in a state of evolution.

Three years after the success of THE PROPHECY, especially on VHS, the inevitable (?) sequel came in 1998. Although Greg Widen didn't return, but alongside Christopher Walken in front of the camera, you musically brought the audience back to the world of angels. You've composed music for sequels before, but never for your own score, as far as I know. How did you approach this project?

When I was asked by Joel and Mike asked if I wanted to score THE PROPHECY II I jumped at it as I thought it would be great fun to write for a sequel based on a score I had done previously. I knew I wanted to revisit those themes from the original, especially since Walken’s character, the Archangel Gabriel, was returning. His theme needed to be in the sequel. I also wanted to keep the choral sound world that we had set up in the original although it would draw on variations of the original material. I also wanted to ramp up the mystery and supernatural music in the second one to make it more intense. I was going for bigger and more dramatic musical gestures. Still, I wanted to keep THE PROPHECY sound as a big part in the sequel to keep the films closely related. I really enjoyed working with Greg Spence on THE PROPHECY II as he, along with Joel Soisson and Mike Leahy, gave me creative freedom but at the same time they also gave me valuable input and suggested ideas that I hadn’t thought of and that really helped.

How was the collaboration on THE PROPHECY 2 with director Greg Spence? Were you able to benefit from your previous collaboration on CHILDREN OF THE CORN IV?

Again, it was a great experience working with Greg. I think working with him on CHILDREN OF THE CORN: THE GATHERING was very beneficial as we both knew each others cinematic sensibilities. It allowed a creative shorthand so I knew what Greg was going for and also just the tone of his voice discussing certain scenes led me to understand what he wanted. That familiarity with each other really helped our communication.

Do you have any special memories of working on the sequel?

Mainly that it was such a pleasure to work with Greg and we became good friends through the process. It was a very busy period for me and I miss that we fell out of touch over the years.

On THE PROPHECY 3, you are still credited as the composer of the iconic title theme, but I'm guessing you didn't actively work on the film any more? What made you step away from the franchise?

Well, it was a tough choice but I thought that I had already said everything I wanted to say on the films, musically speaking. I suppose I could have done the 3rd installment but I thought I would just be repeating myself and I wanted to move on to other films with new challenges.

Overall, how do you look back on your time with the Archangels today?

It was a fun experience on those films and I got to work with some amazing people, many who I know and still talk to today. Artistically I found it very rewarding and I will remember working on THE PROPHECY and THE PROPHECY II very fondly.
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